On December 15th, 2006, Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi signed center fielder Vernon Wells to a seven-year, $126MM extension. The heavily-backloaded contract included a full no-trade clause and an opt-out clause after the 2011 season. At the time of the signing, Wells was a year away from free agency.
With five years and $105MM remaining, the Wells extension is now widely regarded as the worst contract in baseball. I thought it'd be interesting to see what sportswriters were saying at the time of the signing.
Jerry Crasnick, ESPN: "Depending on your viewpoint, Wells' new deal with Toronto is either a heartwarming tale of loyalty or yet another sign that major league baseball owners never learn."
Keith Law, ESPN: "By deferring most of the payments due, Ricciardi keeps more payroll in the 2007-10 years available to pay other players, even if it means killing the team's financial flexibility in 2011 and beyond."
Peter Gammons, ESPN: "If you're going to give $18 million to somebody, you want them to be as diligent and as reliable as Vernon. If he went out in the market next year, with Andruw Jones, and Ichiro, and Torii Hunter, I really believe that at his age he might be #1."
Jeff Blair, Globe and Mail: "The dollars involved in Wells's extension are an accurate reading of a system flush with cash because of new media riches, labour peace and solid attendance in big markets. Wells would have received $20-million a year as a free agent next year without breaking a sweat. His on-field production – a Gold Glove, .300 batting average, 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in – would not be replaced in time to compete this year in the hypercompetitive American League East."
Nate Silver, Baseball Prospectus: "Toronto did a good job of assessing Wells's value in the short term. As for the risks associated with a contract that stretches past the player's 35th birthday? Consider it a necessary evil for securing a premium player who likely would've fetched at least $150 million in next year's market."
J.C. Bradbury, Sabernomics: "Wells needs to hurry up and sign the Blue Jays contract offer of $126 million over seven years. My most optimistic projection (assuming no decline in play from 2006) has him at $107 over seven years."
I didn't offer much opinion on the extension, but I did note that it was crazy that the $18MM salary was seen as a loyalty discount. Click here to read the opinions of MLBTR commenters.